News and Announcements

January 27, 2009

1/27/2009 12:00:00 AM EASTERN
Updated: 1/27/2011 4:23:48 PM EASTERN
For more information, contact Yolanda Gaskins.
Holy Cross Hospital Opens Nation's First Emergency Room Designed Specifically For Seniors

(Silver Spring, Maryland) - Holy Cross Hospital of Silver Spring, Maryland, has become the first hospital in the nation to create an emergency room specifically tailored to serve a growing senior population. Officially opened in early November 2008, the new six-bay Holy Cross Hospital Seniors Emergency Center is a separate, enclosed area of the main Emergency Center that provides safe, efficient emergency services designed to meet the complex, uncertain needs of non-acute elderly patients and those who care for them.

Last year, Holy Cross Hospital provided emergency care to more than 12,000 seniors in the emergency center and admitted more than 5,700 senior patients. "Today, only one in every eight people in Montgomery County is over the age of 65," says hospital president and CEO, Kevin J. Sexton, "but within the next ten years the senior population is expected to grow five times faster than everyone else. Holy Cross Hospital has a 45-year history of meeting the needs of its community. The growing number of seniors in this country presents a tremendous challenge to our health system and it is our responsibility to respond in a way that is both sensitive and sustainable."

During the developmental phase of this project, Holy Cross Hospital formed an advisory team of community seniors and worked closely with internationally renowned eldercare expert Bill H. Thomas, M.D., and his team at The Erickson School at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "We wanted to use the best thinking, not just from health care, about meeting the needs of seniors," added Sexton.

The Holy Cross Hospital Seniors Emergency Center has a separate entrance just off the main waiting room and, in addition to the six curtained bays, includes a nursing station designed for increased visibility, two private patient rooms and a room for private family consultations. The environment was scientifically designed to reduce anxiety, confusion and risk of falling. Some of the upgrades include special senior-friendly lighting, soft colors, noise abatement features, hand rails and special flooring that reflects light in a way that makes missteps less likely.

The Seniors Emergency Center features thicker mattresses to help reduce pressure, a blanket warmer, telephones with larger buttons and special pillow speakers to make listening to music or watching television more comfortable. Bathrooms are more accessible and special signage helps senior eyes find things easier and faster. "It's really about creating an entire senior emergency room experience," says Dr. James Del Vecchio, Medical Director of the Emergency Center, adding "that all patients will continue to be triaged upon coming to Holy Cross Hospital Emergency Center and that about 75 percent of triaged seniors will meet the criteria for the Seniors Emergency Center."

In addition to physicians, the senior care team consists of staff dedicated to the Seniors Emergency Center including a geriatric nurse practitioner, registered nurses trained in geriatrics and a geriatric social worker. All provide high quality, competent and compassionate care in an environment that mitigates anxiety for the senior and his or her loved ones.

"The challenge with seniors is about avoiding repeat visits," says Dr. Larry Oufiero, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Oufiero believes that in fact the discharge process will be central to the Seniors Emergency Center's success. Before a senior leaves the emergency center, the team will assess the senior's physical function, cognitive status, level of risk and then refer them to the appropriate level of care. This discharge process assures a seamless transition back to the home or other care setting and substantially lessens the probability of a return visit for the same health issue.

"What we hope to do is create a better model of care delivery," adds Sexton, "a unique and enhanced environment that will support and contribute to the optimum seniors emergency department experience. We realize how great the need is, and that we all must continue to learn and then implement ways to better serve the health needs of our community as a whole and our seniors who need us most."

For more information on the Holy Cross Hospital Seniors Emergency Center, please contact:

Yolanda Gaskins
Public Information Officer
Holy Cross Hospital

Kavan Peterson
Communications Manager
Social Sciences and the Erickson School at UMBC
Office: 410-455-1896
Cell: 443-739-3052


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